KANSAS CITY, MO ‒ Amid a national increase in workplace deaths by electrocution, OSHA urges employers to emphasize stronger electrical safety. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 3.75 percent increase – 166 workplace deaths related to electrocution – in 2019 over the previous year. From November 2018 through October 2021, OSHA investigated 12 electrical-related deaths in Missouri and Kansas.
Electrical Hazards Killed Four Workers In Midwest
Electrical hazards killed four workers in Missouri and Kansas within five months in 2021. Fatal accidents occurred in Missouri while a 40-year-old electrical contractor replaced light fixtures in Sedalia. On Sept. 23, a 22-year-old worker was killed when cleaning a Higbee pig barn with a pressure washer. Another tragic electrical accident happened in Wichita, Kansas when a 41-year-old worked with heating and air conditioning equipment. A month earlier, electrical hazards proved fatal to a 35-year-old electrical contractor while climbing a pole in Lawrence, Kansas. Their stories and circumstances may differ, but the cause of death is the same – electrocution.
While OSHA continues its investigations of these employer-reported deaths, the agency urges the Midwest employers to emphasize electrical safety practices.
“Recent tragedies in Missouri and Kansas are reminders of the danger of electrical exposures in the workplace. OSHA’s electrical standards are designed to protect employees from electric shock and electrocution,” said OSHA’s Acting Regional Administrator Billie Kizer in Kansas City, Missouri. “Employers should implement safety and health programs, and are required to train workers on identifying hazards and use required protective measures to ensure all employees end each workday safely,” he continued.
Hazard Recognition, Safety Audits, and Training Can Enhance Electrical Safety
Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard. Engineers, electricians, and other professionals work with electricity directly, including working on overhead lines, cable harnesses, and circuit assemblies. Others, such as office workers and sales personnel, work with electricity indirectly but may also be exposed to electrical hazards.
Many workers are unaware of the potential electrical hazards present in their workplace, making them more vulnerable to electrocution. The following hazards are the most frequent causes of electrical injuries: contact with power lines, lack of ground-fault protection, the path to ground missing or discontinuous, equipment not used per manufacture specifications, and improper use of extension and flexible cords.
Employers may implement various solutions to reduce or eliminate the risk of injury associated with electrical work. Examples of solutions include the use of insulation, guarding, grounding, electrical protective devices, and safe work practices. It is recommended employers conduct periodic electrical safety inspections to identify potentially hazardous electrical situations and provide corrective actions. The electrical safety audit also helps determine safety compliance, electrical safety work processes, maintenance tools and identifies potential cost savings and inefficiencies.
TAVARES, FL – In Florida, early March 2021, willfully bypassed safety measures led to a worker’s death according to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA). The worker’s employer, United Signs & Signals Inc. (US&S) was cited with a total of $237,566 in proposed penalties.
On the day of the accident, March 2, 2021, an electrical technician climbed into a trench to splice electrical wires to power streetlights. The worker made contact with live wires and suffered a fatal electrocution.
OSHA determined the company bypassed safety measures that led to the worker’s death. These were failing to de-energize or guard circuits, thus exposing workers to electrical shock hazards. The company was also cited for exposing workers to cave-in hazards, not ensuring a safe means of exiting the excavations, and allowing employees to work in a trench with accumulated water.
OSHA Area Office Director Michelle Gonzalez stated, “A man is dead because of US&S’s willful indifference toward protecting its workers. This terrible loss should remind employers that safety measures are never optional, and the consequences for ignoring them can be fatal.”
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Scriba, NY — Peter Clark Jr., 54, of Tully, who died while working at the Novelis Inc. aluminum factory in Oswego County on the morning of May 15th, appears to have been accidentally electrocuted, according to local deputies.
He was pronounced dead at the scene after being electrocuted while working as a contractor at the Scriba factory, said the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office. The deadly accident is being investigated by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), Ridley Electric, and the Novelis plant all together, as parts of the accident remain unclear and risks and causes are not yet publicized.
The Novelis plant in Oswego County is the county’s largest manufacturer and employs over 1,100 people. Within the 1.7-million-square-foot facility, workers make rolled aluminum that is used in vehicle body panels for automakers like Ford.
While details of the aluminum factory accident remain unclear, electrocution can be caused by a number of risks and inefficiencies.
Arlington, VA- Prompted by reports of three recent fatalities involving electricity, the Mine Safety and Health Administration has issued a safety alert.
Electricity has killed three people in the mining industry since August 7, 2019.
An electrician contacted an energized component of a 4,160 VAC electrical circuit while adjusting the linkage between the disconnect lever and the internal components of the panel that supplied power to the plant feed belt motors. A contract electrician contacted an energized 120 VAC conductor while working inside a fire suppression system’s electrical
panel. An electrician contacted an exposed energized connector while troubleshooting a 995 VAC flooded bed scrubber motor circuit on-board a continuous mining machine.
MSHA offers numerous best practices for electrical incident prevention. Among them:
-Perform lockout/tagout procedures on circuits before working on electrical equipment.
-Don’t rush, and never work alone. Talk with co-workers and confirm your plan is safe.
-Identify and control all hazardous energy sources before conducting tasks, and follow safe work procedures.
-Train miners on equipment they may use.
-Always perform troubleshooting without power. If you must troubleshoot an energized circuit, use appropriately rated personal protective equipment to prevent hazards.
Waukegan, IL- An OSHA investigation into the deaths of four employees of an Illinois chemical plant has resulted in more than a million dollars in proposed penalties against AB Specialty Silicones LLC.
The company has been cited for a dozen willful federal safety violations in the explosion and fire at its Waukegan facility on May 3, 2019 that caused deaths of four employees.
The silicon chemical products manufacturer faces $1,591,176 in penalties and has been placed in the in the Severe Violator Enforcement Program.
OSHA investigators determined AB Specialty Silicones failed to ensure that electrical equipment and installations in the production area of the plant complied with OSHA electrical standards, and were approved for hazardous locations. The company also used forklifts powered by liquid propane to transport volatile flammable liquids, and operated these forklifts in areas where employees handled and processed volatile flammable liquids and gases, creating the potential for ignition.
New Jersey- Nearly one-third of the employers in the state hit with initial safety violation fines of $40K or more are government agencies. But many cases are settled for lesser amounts.
New Jersey employers have been hit with at least $16.6 million in fines since 2015 for having unsafe workplaces and conditions.
Fines levied by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration against employers in the state over the past five years peaked in 2017. In 2017, the federal agency levied more than $4.9 million in fines against at least 60 companies.
All told, the Network reviewed OSHA data of more than 200 enforcement cases with initial penalties of $40,000 and higher. Data for enforcement cases with penalties less than $40,000 were not available.
Most of the reviewed cases involved private employers. However, almost 30% of the penalties involved local, state or federal government agencies, the Network’s analysis shows. The initial penalties in those cases totaled more than $4 million.
The Network ‘s ranking of the data is based on the initial penalties OSHA levied against employers, not the final amount paid. Many of the cases the Network reviewed are still under appeal. Employers frequently enter into settlement agreements with OSHA for reduced penalties that require the employer to address the agency’s safety concerns.
For contractors and companies to avoid such fines, proper training and up-to-date standards practiced is essential.
Fort St. John, British Colombia – Peace River Hydro Partners has been fined $662,102.48 by WorkSafeBC. The fine was imposed on August 21, 2019, after a worker sustained an electrical shock injury. A worker was able to access the main circuit breaker in a high-voltage electrical cabinet for tunneling equipment.
According to WorkSafeBC, the main electrical breaker extensions on the exterior cabinet door were not functioning, the de-energization switches had been circumvented and the main breaker switch-box isolation covers were in disrepair.
WorkSafeBC staff also determined that it was a standard work practice at this site to access the main circuit breaker without following lockout procedures.
A stop-use order was issued for the tunneling equipment because Peace River Hydro Partners failed to ensure its equipment was capable of safely performing its functions, and was unable to provide its workers with the information, instruction, training, and supervision necessary to ensure their health and safety.
WorkSafeBC says these were both repeated violations.
This is the largest fine WorkSafeBC can issue under B.C. legislation. The report from WorkSafeBC did not disclose the condition of the worker or the exact date of the incident.
Ontario, Canada- September 19th was Black Thursday in Ontario’s electrical sector with three separate incidents of workers contacting overhead wires causing two electrocution deaths and injuring two others.
The spate of mishaps left construction, electrical and health and safety stakeholders upset, frustrated and searching for answers.
“The Electrical Safety Authority is very saddened to hear any time there are incidents of an electrical nature,” said Dr. Joel Moody, the ESA’s chief public safety officer. “Our thoughts are with the families who have experienced loss.”
Two of the three involved construction work. The third, in Kawartha Lakes, was at a private home where workers trimming a hedge on an elevated work platform contacted a powerline. One worker died and the other was injured.
In Vaughan, a Ministry of Labour report said a worker employed by Pontil Drilling Services sustained fatal injuries when a drill boom made contact with overhead power lines.
In Scarborough, east Toronto, a worker for Darcon was injured when a tower crane hit an overhead powerline. The job site constructor is Paramount Structures.
“This is a stark reminder of the dangers of working near electricity and clearly shows there is a need for more to be done to keep workers safe,” said James Barry, executive chairman of the IBEW Construction Council of Ontario, in an online statement.
There have been 1,250 reported overhead powerline contacts in Ontario in the last 10 years with an average of two deaths per year, making the pair of fatalities on Sept. 19 a full year’s worth statistically. The ESA says construction workers are at especially high risk with 60 per cent of powerline contacts occurring with dump trucks on construction sites.
The ESA responded to the mishaps with a statement urging awareness of the specific hazards related to working near wires. It’s a message that echoes those of the ESA’s Powerline Safety Week awareness campaign that’s launched at the start of construction season each May in Canada.
The ESA also works with utilities, haulers and arborists on a regular basis, Moody said.
“We urge situational awareness with a hazard assessment being the first thing they should do,” he said. “Be aware of your surroundings.”
“All of these incidents are preventable. Electricity is very lethal and unforgiving and having safe work practices every day is very important.”
“For the most part, if you look at the utilities, they live and breathe health and safety,” Kelusky said. “These weren’t utility workers, the guys dealing with the live stuff, they deal with it with great respect and understanding. That is a cultural thing from top to bottom.”
Despite the incidents of Sept. 19, Kelusky said, the statistics show construction is getting safer and that the construction sector in the province is developing a more integrated safety culture.
Responding to the comment urging that more be done, Kelusky said a major focus of his office is linking the diverse efforts of the health and safety community. His office has recently pledged to work with Ontario’s Industrial Health and Safety Association to undertake more research to be able to provide stronger tools to employers.
The approach to falls across the province in the last decade is a good example of how research can lead to program development and working with employers and employees to deliver results, Kelusky explained.
“What we want to do is supply labor and employers with more information other than, if you touch that it will hurt you,” he said, referring to electrical hazards. “We did that with falls and touch wood that seems to be going well.”
Looking ahead, Kelusky said, there are positive signs from Queen’s Park with the auditor general conducting a much-needed review of health and safety programs, the government reviewing the WSIB and signals from the new Minister of Labor, Monte McNaughton, that he is keenly interested in health and safety and working collaboratively with stakeholders. That’s on top of the WSIB’s new Health and Safety Excellence Program and the continuing growth of COR.
Natchez, MS – OSHA has cited paper products manufacturer von Drehle Corporation for multiple workplace safety hazards and issued $303,657 in potential penalties, including one for the maximum amount allowed by law.
OSHA’s Area Office Director stated that “employers are required to assess potential hazards, and make necessary corrections to ensure a safe workplace…[This] inspection results demonstrate workplace deficiencies existed, putting workers at serious risk of injury or death.”
Von Drehle Corp issued a statement regarding the citations at their Natchez facility: “Employee safety is the utmost important priority for von Drehle, which is why we fully cooperated with OSHA throughout the inspections.”
Von Drehle is headquartered in Hickory, North Carolina, and manufacturers industrial and commercial paper products like tissue and paper towels at facilities in North Carolina, Mississippi, Nevada and Tennessee.
Conroe, TX – An electrical panel explosion and fire at Aegion Coating Services’ production plant sent two electricians to the hospital this month.
Investigators say two electricians were seriously burned when a high voltage electrical panel they were working on exploded.
According to the local Fire Marshal, multiple agencies responded to the emergency and the facility was evacuated as a precaution. One report described heavy black smoke billowing from a large warehouse at the site. The fire caused by the electrical panel explosion was quickly put out by firefighters. The chemicals present at this plant were a concern for area firefighters, but it was reported that no chemicals were released and local residents were not evacuated.
Both affected electricians were transported to the hospital for burn treatments, but were back to work when the plant was authorized to resume operations later that same day.
The Aegion chemical plant facility north of Houston specializes in pipeline coatings for both onshore and offshore installations. The incident is currently under investigation by the County Fire Marshal’s Office.
Please contact Martin Technical to learn more about Electrical and Arc Flash safety.